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Page last updated at 14:07 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Ousted Madagascar leader defiant

Supporters of ousted Madagascan President Marc Ravalomanana are dispersed by police during a march on 25 March 2009
Now it is Andry Rajoelina who faces daily protests against his rule

Deposed Madagascan President Marc Ravalomanana has urged supporters to unite to save the nation in his first comments since his overthrow last week.

In a message sent to a rally in the capital Antananarivo he described his removal from power as a coup.

He is in Swaziland ahead of next week's meeting by regional leaders to discuss possible sanctions against Madagascar.

Madagascar's new leader, Andry Rajoelina, has offered reconciliation talks with allies of the ousted leader.

'Destroying our country'

In a pre-recorded message played to around 10,000 supporters, Mr Ravalomanana said: "It is up to us, it is up to you, it is up to me... to save the nation, defend the union and our national unity."

Former Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana waves his supporters on 15 March 2009 in Antananarivo
Marc Ravalomanana quit last week after soldiers stormed his offices

"Madagascar was on the road to development and now they are destroying our country with their coup."

The new military-backed government of President Rajoelina, who is facing daily protests and a growing international backlash against his rise to power, said reconciliation talks were scheduled for 2-3 April.

Members of Mr Ravalomanana's political party declined to say if they would join the proposed dialogue, Reuters news agency reports.

Regional power South Africa said on Wednesday it would support sanctions against Madagascar at Monday's South African Development Community meeting.

South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told reporters: "We support the non-recognition [of Madagascar], we support pressure including whatever might be agreed, sanctions."

The African Union has already announced Madagascar's suspension, while the United States and European Union have described Mr Rajoelina's accession as a coup.

Mr Ravalomanana, 59, resigned as president on 17 March, clearing the way for Mr Rajoelina to take power after a bitter three-month power struggle during which around 100 civilians died.

The former disc jockey, 34, who spent nearly two years as Antananarivo mayor, is Africa's youngest president.

Still six years too young to be president under the current constitution, he has promised new elections within two years after a new charter is adopted, but this has failed to satisfy donors.



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